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O-Zone: Shift in focus

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Tom from Charleston, SC

So, you support the league's desire not to take the human element out of refereeing. You could have taken any one of 70,000 fans out of the stands in the NFC Championship Game Sunday and made that call correctly. That guy should have been removed from the game at that point for being grossly inept. Look at the film: the referee had an unobstructed view of the play and he chose to ignore the obvious. If not the pass-interference call, then the helmet-to-helmet violation certainly should have been called. As long as the officials are allowed to blow such obvious and simple calls without consequences they will continue to make a mockery of the rules. Whatcha think?

I think the official clearly missed the call in question in Rams-Saints Sunday, and I think it was among the more obvious and unfortunate misses I ever have seen in an NFL game. It appeared he erred far too much to the side of letting the players decide the game and not having a penalty be the deciding play. That's an understandable instinct late in big games, but a non-penalty deciding a game in this case was far worse. Still, the official in question was officiating in the NFC Championship Game for a reason, so he overall is a good official. Officials are humans. They err. Could you have removed the official in question from the game? I suppose. But New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception late in the game that was negated by an offsides penalty on Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford. Brady and Ford both made mistakes. They remained in the game. They weren't pelted with rocks and garbage. They weren't walloped with newspapers about the face and neck. These are humans who make mistakes, not robots. That's true of the players and it's also true of the officials.

Sean from Jacksonville

Let's say we get Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles as a free agent and almost give up the farm to pay for him. What do you think some rabid fans will complain about – besides the money?

Other stuff.

Al from Orange Park, FL

Zone, you make a valid point that replay wouldn't resolve situations where different people (fans of opposing teams) would see a play in different ways. But in the case of the missed pass interference on Sunday, I have not heard anyone claim that that WASN'T pass interference - not the Rams, not the league, not the game officials. Even Nickell Robey-Coleman admitted he chose to commit the foul rather than allow a touchdown. So, no … you don't overturn a judgment call with video replay, but you apply the same restrictions as on any other replay - if it's clear and undeniable that the call was wrong, you change it.

Fair point. The system in this case broke down when no on-field official called a clear-and-obvious penalty. The NFL's replay system doesn't allow a reversal in this case. But the problem is the long-term ramifications of a system that allows more plays to be reviewed. While a rule enabling an official to step in and overturn an obvious error was needed in this case, where do you draw the line? What is obvious? The NFL always has leaned as much as it can to a clear-and-obvious system in which subjectivity is as much as possible out of the equation. It also has erred on the side of not having every reviewable because it has erred on the side not having the games drag on and seem over-officiated. That sometimes creates situations such as Sunday's. Would a new system that allows any play to be reviewed have solved Sunday's issue? Yes. Would it necessarily be better overall long-term for the game? No, because the system very possibly could create as much of a mess as it would solve.

Mike from St. Mary's, GA

Right now, it's hard to believe that the Jags beat a Super Bowl-bound team, and it hurts a little to remember that at the time, it wasn't that hard to believe.


Jason from North Pole, AK

My biggest concern for the Jaguars' offense this offseason is wide receiver. It would seem as though there are a lot of options for trying to fix our quarterback problem but there are very few relevant receivers projected to be available in free agency. Teams also tend to not get a lot of production from rookie receivers, particularly those drafted outside the first round. Are we essentially doomed to hoping our young wideouts take a step forward this offseason?

It remains to be seen if the Jaguars' front office shares your concern about receiver. I can easily foresee a scenario in which Dede Westbrook, DJ Chark Jr. and Marqise Lee are the team's top three receivers entering the season with a "rebooted" Keelan Cole and a Day 3 draft selection as the fifth receiver. One reason for that approach would be the point you make – that rookie wide receivers typically take time to develop, and that the Jaguars seem unlikely to find a big-time answer in free agency. The Jaguars are in a tricky spot at the position. I've repeatedly said it would take a while to find a true No. 1, elite wide receiver – if for no other reason than there are other areas that must be addressed first.

Matt from North Jacksonville

Moving on from quarterback Blake Bortles, what do you think about Tyrod Taylor? He had a bad year in Cleveland, but every quarterback has had bad times in Cleveland under Hue Jackson. He did decent in Buffalo and took them to the playoffs. Maybe not a long-term answer, but definitely a good prospect for a bridge quarterback.

It sounds fine.

Chris from Nashville, TN

When you say the NFL isn't rigged because it would be too big a risk … too big a risk for who? The NFL? The refs? Is there not a precedent for corruption in professional sports? I guess apart from doping, blatant cheating (see New England), illicit gambling (by NBA officials nonetheless), along with a hundred other sports scandals … yeah, I guess it's just too big of a risk and no one would EVER consider fixing NFL games ... keep being you, John.

People who believe NFL "games are rigged" to favor certain teams or markets essentially believe that there is a mandate from the league office calling for such a thing. That would mean the league making a conscious decision and risking its existence. To believe that is illogical. I don't particularly care if people believe it or not, but I try to maintain some level of truth in the O-Zone so I probably won't give the theory much credence.

Allen from Belaire, OH

What do you think about the second year in a row in which the refs miss a call that potentially resulted in a loss in the conference title game?

I think it's unfortunate and I think the league probably will (over)react to the situation.

Bryce from Waterloo

Hey, John: Just curious what your thoughts are on the coaching staff that Doug has put together.

It looks like a capable staff. If the players buy in, listen and stay healthy, the staff should be able to get good results.

Dave from Chorley, UK

Given the state at left tackle by season's end, do you see the Jags drafting a left tackle in later rounds – or even picking some extra left tackles who go undrafted?


Mac from Jacksonville Beach

Uuuhhh ... Drew Brees … ever heard of him? I'd say he's pretty elite.

You're referring to a recent O-Zone question in which I made the point that elite quarterbacks are rarely available in free agency. You correctly – and sarcastically – note that New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is elite and that he was acquired by the Saints as a free agent. First, you're going back a decade and a half for an example, so that supports the point that it's rare. And a big reason Brees was available as a free agent is there were concerns regarding his shoulder. Also, while Brees was good early in his career, it's a stretch to say he was elite when the Saints signed him as a free agent. Either way, the big point is this: Yes, you occasionally can find an elite quarterback in free agency, but it's rare and there's going to be some risk involved on some level. At the same time … if you're asking if risk ever isn't involved when projecting a player as a franchise quarterback, you would be asking a very legitimate question.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-Man, I find it amusing that we have gotten to the point of not only complaining about the calls against our team, but also about calls against other teams. When does it all end?

It never ends. Fans gonna fan. Always.

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